Chuck Wendig: Fuck The Straight Line: How Story Rebels Against Expectation
Sometimes someone just sums up things in exactly the right way. I want to take parts of this blog post, print them out and paste them on my wall in some sort of “A Beautiful Mind, I’m losing my shit but look at the brilliance scrawled before me” sort of way.
A few choice quotes:
“The lines of our stories and our lives should not be safe, straight walking paths. They should be electric eels that squirm and shock. They should be the lines in Escher prints, the peaks and valleys of mountains and volcanoes, the sloppily painted strokes of a drunken chimpanzee. The right line, the interesting line, is a line that defies, that spells out fuck this noise, that is shaped like a middle finger aimed squarely at the expectations of others.”
“The status quo is a known quantity and so it does not demand the attention of our description — we know what a chair looks like, a bed, a wall, the sky, that tree. The straight line is as plain and obvious as a pair of ugly thumbs….We describe those things that must be known, that the audience cannot otherwise describe themselves, that contribute to the violation of their expectations. We don’t illuminate every tree in the forest: just that one tree that looks like a dead man’s hand reaching toward the sky, pulling clouds down into its boughs, the tree from whence men have hanged and in which strange birds have slept. We describe the different tree. The tree that matters. The crooked tree that doesn’t belong.”
“And we as storytellers are the crooked trees that do not belong.”
“Nobody wants you to be a storyteller. They want you to sit in a box. They want you to crunch your numbers or fill that pail or dig that ditch or learn how to do the things that will let you make that money, hunny-bunny. They want you to do the things that are expected of you. They want to wave to you from their own straight lines, comfortable that you’re all on the same ride together, certain that you’re all safe and going in the same direction and, oh, hey, look, benches, and old people, and pigeons.”
“Our stories are best when they are like the storyteller: when they have gone off-book, off-world, off the goddamn reservation. When they have forgotten their lines and made up better ones, when they have lost the map and found secret passages and unknown caverns.”
“Tell your stories the way you want. Tell the stories that aren’t married to a safe and previously-established pattern. Be the shaman in the darkness.”
“Find your own shape. Seek your own circuitous route. Escape. Disobey. Rebel. Fuck the straight line.”
I do think I am going to create some sort of inspiration board in my new place–a cork board above my desk where I’m going to post inspirational comments from other blogs along with “inspirational comments” from rejection letters. (Not the bits about the story being boring, but the bits about Philip K. Dick being proud or someone being keen to see more from me. Those bits. The little reminders that I’m getting close to something.)
This post not only inspires me to keep writing and ignore all those voices that say, “What are you doing? Why? Huh? What’s wrong with just showing up at that job of yours and making a living?” But it also reminds me that I need to twist things more in my writing. I need to take that straight path and squeeze it to pulp if I want to bring things to that next level in my writing.
(Now I just need to get my mind to think in that way…and how do I do that? WRITE.)
The proper response is, I think: “I want to show up at my computer every day and make a living… as a writer.”
If you don’t already have a Pinterest Board, you might consider making yourself one and then take all the quotes and bits you find inspiring and put them with a picture–or at least a PowerPoint background–and add them to your board. Then they can be shared around with others. (I also use my board–http://pinterest.com/keripeardon/acceptance-trilogy/–to organize some of my research and to share related material with my readers. I find pictures of a lot of the things I describe in my books, so you can see exactly what the view is like from Mt. Carmel, or what a wrought iron gate looks like in Charleston.)
Good idea! I’m currently in a “I hate the Internet” mode, but once I get over it, I’ll probably check it out.